It’s important to remember the origin of Earth Day – and why we celebrate it today. In the words of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “before 1970, a factory could spew black clouds of toxic smoke into the air or dump tons of toxic waste into a nearby stream, and that was perfectly legal.” In 1962, Rachel Carson drew attention to the dire effects of this unregulated pollution on human health with her book Silent Spring, focusing particularly on toxic pesticides like DDT. Her book sparked the environmental movement that ultimately led to the creation of the EPA in 1970 and the development of national guidelines that could be consistently monitored and enforced, and the first Earth Day was held that same year.
While the EPA implemented regulations to manage future pollution, there weren’t any regulations to handle sites that were already contaminated, which came to very public notice with the Love Canal incident and the Valley of the Drums site. Love Canal was a community built on land that a chemical company had been dumping toxic waste into for years, harming hundreds of residents, especially children. The Valley of the Drums was a toxic waste site that various companies were dumping into throughout the 1960s, and caught the attention of the EPA when some of the drums caught fire and burned for a week. Both of these incidents led to the creation of Superfund law and a subsequent cleanup effort that took over 20 years.
These are only a couple of high profile examples of improper chemical use and waste management that have dramatically harmed the environment. The storytellers amplified the voices of a new generation of concerned citizens who began to put pressure on corporations to consider the far-reaching impacts of their manufacturing processes, chemicals used, and resulting treatment of their byproducts. Throughout the remainder of the 1970s, states and communities enacted their own environmental regulations, and several environmental services businesses were founded in response to developing regulations for air (Clean Air Act – 1970), water (Clean Water Act – 1972), and soil (Resource Conservation Recovery Act – 1980).
Meanwhile, our company had been taking action for over a decade before hazardous waste management guidelines were ever put into law, to meet the demands of our customers and concerned citizens in our communities. Our founders listened to the very public concerns being raised by activists during the counterculture movement of the 1960’s and decided to be part of the solution. Our existing business recovering cutting oils and coolants from a local manufacturer and using them as fuel to power our Heritage Group (THG) asphalt hot mix plants, was taken a step further. THG dedicated engineers and scientists to develop a groundbreaking treatment process addressing the contaminated water from these industrial operations. 2020 marked 50 years of helping our customers do the right thing.
Earth Day is an annual reminder that we need be conscious of our impact on our planet, but at Heritage, we believe that reminder shouldn’t just be once a year. We’ve had many slogans and taglines over the decades, but one that continues to resurface is “At Heritage, Every Day is Earth Day.” While some outside our industry may feel that this saying cliché or overused, we wholeheartedly stand behind its meaning. Our employees show up every day and make highly nuanced decisions about the waste in our care that has the potential to have lasting environmental impacts. We’re here to help corporations do better and handle their waste responsibly, whether that’s through existing recovery and recycling opportunities, or investing in R&D to address challenging waste streams, protecting human health and the environment every step along the way. “At Heritage, Every Day is Earth Day” is a rallying cry for our teams across the country who come to work to make a difference.
To learn more about our profit sustainability goals, check out the “Planet” tab on our 2020 Sustainability Report Page. To learn more about our 50 year legacy, please visit our about page: https://www.heritage-enviro.com/about-us/